Press Release
September 14, 2021

Grace Poe's sponsorship speech transcript on water franchise bills
Sept. 14, 2021

It is my honor to present to the body two measures that will ensure access to safe water and sanitation during the pandemic and well beyond.

Access to water and sanitation is a basic human right. The United Nations General Assembly recognizes that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realization of all human rights.

This right cannot be more emphasized under a global health crisis. According to the World Health Organization, access to safe water, sanitation, and hygienic conditions are essential in protecting one's health during the pandemic.

With such a finite resource and a ballooning population, water shortage has always threatened the health and economy of the residents in the Greater Manila Area.

The National Capital Region and its adjacent provinces have been plagued year after year and drought after drought of water crisis characterized by constant supply interruption, lack of potable water, and high water rates.

In the hopes of urgently addressing these pressing water supply and distribution issues, as chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, it is my honor to present to the body House Bills No. 9422 and 9423 which seeks the grant of franchise to two water concessionaires--Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc.

We are already familiar with these two companies at maaaring karamihan sa atin ay mga customer nila. These two water concessionaires came about when the government, through concession agreements in 1997, entrusted the delivery of water and sewerage services to these private companies. At present, Maynilad is servicing the west zone of Metro Manila and the province of Cavite, while Manila Water is servicing the east zone of Metro Manila and the province of Rizal.

Last March 31 and May 18, 2021, Manila Water and Maynilad respectively signed a revised concession agreement (RCA) which removes the contentious provisions found in the 1997 contract.

These include: 1) the non-interference clause which prevented government from intervening in water rate determination; 2) additional safeguards such as the 12-percent rate of return cap, availability of legal action, stricter asset management, immediate turnover of recovered assets to Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, Commission on Audit's audit of books and records, reduction of non-revenue water; and as if learning from past experience, a provision which sets the arbitration venue in the Philippines with Filipino arbitrators.

Further, there shall be a tariff freeze until December 2022. Sa ilalim ng bagong kasunduan, walang pagtaas sa presyo ng tubig sa NCR hanggang Disyembre ng susunod na taon.

Sa ilalim din ng RCA ang mga concessionaire ay kinakailangang magkaroon ng alternatibong water supply tuwing may scheduled interruption. Kung ito naman ay biglaan, kailangan ay maibalik ang suplay ng tubig anim na oras matapos ang notice, at dapat ay may updates sa mga consumer ukol sa progreso nito. Ang hindi pagtupad sa service obligations ay may karampatang multa at posibleng maging dahilan para i-terminate ang kontrata.

Most importantly, the RCA designates these two water concessionaires as public utilities, thus they need a congressional franchise to operate and will be subject to oversight.

Mr. President, this is the first time this committee under my chairmanship will be granting a franchise to a water concessionaire. So for good measure, apart from the House bill transmitted to us, we made use only of the standard provisions in franchises that we have already deliberated and passed on the floor.

This includes the standard provision on 'Responsibility to the Public' highlighting the concessionaire's responsibility to comply with all of its obligations, and to incorporate public participation in its service. We also included the standard clause on ipso facto revocation of the franchise for failure to operate continuously for two years or as provided in the RCA.


Likewise, we inserted the standard tax provision as it is in line with other franchises and to make it consistent with the RCA which states that the grantee is liable to pay real property tax as well as other taxes.

With regard to their performance in the past years, we sought the assistance of government agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, and Bureau of Internal Revenue to ensure that the applicants have complied with their duties and deliverables. Both agencies have cleared the two concessionaires.

Nevertheless, in view of our legislative mandate and responsibility to issue franchises, we assure the body that the documentary submissions of the concessionaires were scrutinized and carefully studied.

Mr. President, we recognize that the grant of franchise is just part of a bigger solution to the water problems in the country, and that there is still a need to tap and develop new water sources, improve water supply, distribution and sewerage systems, and further educate people on water conservation and climate change.

Kapag naisabatas, isa itong malaking hakbang tungo sa ating pangarap para sa ating bansa at sa lahat ng Pilipino na magkaroon ng mura at sapat na suplay ng malinis at maiinom na tubig sa lahat ng oras.

We are for the continuity of water services and we have continuously reiterated to our concessionaires our expectation for a better water provider in the new normal. With the grant of this franchise, nawa'y tuluyan nang dumaloy ang ginhawa at maramdaman ng bawat Pilipino ang 'care in every drop.'

I thank my colleagues for your preliminary support for these measures and for signing the committee reports expeditiously. I hope that we can deliberate these with the public need in mind.

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